Historic preservation doesn’t simply preserve the artifacts of a bygone era, it preserves the history of the people who made them. It’s an undertaking that seeks to not only preserve and protect artifacts, buildings, and even landscapes, but it also preserves the cultural heritage those things represent.

It’s a philosophy that maintains that cities are the product of centuries, and as the inheritors, we are obliged to protect their legacy. The practice began during the early 19th century in England, as the railroads began to destroy many historic sites. This philosophy only took hold as the modern era quickly moved to erase the past. Historic preservation upholds a community’s heritage, creating a legacy for future generations.

Also, the preservation of historic sites engenders civic pride and beauty, bolstering community values. Furthermore, historic preservation employs local community members and improves business opportunities locally. Finally, preservation can increase property values, strengthening local communities. Historic preservation masters the human landscape, it’s a way to understand our communal past, and thus, plot a course for a successful future.

By preserving old buildings, we also save valuable resources, reducing carbon emissions. Historically valuable buildings are often energy efficient; before air conditioning and central heating, architects needed to design good ventilation and features like fireplaces and wood stoves. The fact that an older building already exists means new building materials are not needed. All that is needed is passion and the creative use of new materials to preserve the past.

Historic preservation master’s degrees are available at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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